Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) is conducted as per a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the convenience of the students seeking admission to various National Law Universities in the country. An entrance test is conducted to provide a list of candidates on the basis of ‘merit-cum- preference’ to each University for admission to their Under-Graduate (UG)/Post-Graduate (PG) programmes, as per the eligibility, reservation and other criteria laid down under the respective Statutes of the participating Universities.
The Common Law Admission Test (CLAT), is an all India common entrance examination, conducted on a rotational basis by 19 National Law Universities (NLUs) for admissions to their UG and PG degree programmes.
The petition filed by six CLAT candidates was heard by a Bench comprising Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Navin Sinha. The petitioners were represented by Senior Advocate Salman Khurshid.
CLAT 2018 was conducted by NUALS on May 13 with the aid and assistance of a private company, M/s Sify Technologies Ltd. The petitioners have sought quashing of the same and have prayed for holding fresh examination.
In view of the time constraints under which the Petitioners are operating, the present Petition is filed by 6 students from two (3) different states i.e., Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. However, more than 500 similarly situated students are likely to join the present Petition in immediate future.
The Respondents herein are “State‟ under Article 12 of Constitution of India and public authority against whom a Writ Petition can be maintained under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. Respondent No. 1 is the Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Union of India. Respondent No. 2 is the Registrar of National University of Advanced Legal Studies (NUALS), Kochi. The said University namely NUALS, Kochi is the organizing University which was responsible for conducting CLAT 2018 examination. Respondent No. 3 is the CLAT 2018 Core Committee represented by its Convener i.e., Vice- Chancellor of NUALS, Kochi.
Therefore, the actions of the Respondents constitute a serious violation of the sacrosanct rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India to various prospective law students, including the right to guard against arbitrary actions of the state cherished and protected under Article 14 of Constitution of India and the right to education and other connected rights within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
It is their case that manner in which the examination was held “has jeopardized the future of thousands of students who appeared for this examination”.
The petitioners have elucidated in great detail, the difficulties faced by them and other candidates who appeared for the exam earlier this month. It is their contention that the prerequisites of proper electronic and online infrastructure were not made available.
Various Difficulties Faced By Students
They have submitted students across various States faced serious problems in almost 200 Online examination centres. The problems included-
- Power cuts,
- Failure of log-in system,
- Slow biometric verification,
- Blank screens,
- Substantial loss of time in system log-ins,
- Frequent resetting of computer systems,
- Hanging of computer systems,
- Extremely poor infrastructure at examination centres,
- Lack of proper guidance from staff recruited by the examination centres
- Several instances of unfair conduct of the examination.
- Server shutdown and
- Difficulties in moving from one question to another.
These difficulties led to significant loss of time (averaging about 5-30 minutes from student to student) which has totally vitiated the very essence of an online competitive exam of 120 minutes wherein a student is expected to answer 200 questions, the petition states.
It is the petitioners’ case that in such a highly competitive and rigorous examination, loss of time essentially means fait accompli for the aspirations of any student. The ranking of a student can slip by thousand or more ranks by a simple difference of one or two incorrect answers/ un-attempted questions. This, the petitioners state, is a gross violation of fundamental rights of students under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
The magnitude of mismanagement and gross irregularity in the conduct of examination can also be deciphered from the several other articles published by websites such as Youth Ki Awaaz, Bar & Bench and Lawctopus, the petition states.
The petition also refers to the statement made by Vice Chancellor of NUALS Kochi, Rose Varghese that only 1.5 percent of the candidates appearing for the exam faced difficulties. However, the case made by the petitioners is that 1.5 percent roughly comes to 850 candidates and this figure makes for a solid ground to quash the exam. The petition states,
“The errors and omissions were deliberate and negligent, and a clear attempt is made by Respondent No. 3 [NUALS, Kochi] to underplay the magnitude of problems that have been caused in conducting the examinations. “Alleging inaction on the part of NUALS, Kochi which is the organizing University as well as the Union of India, the petition calls it violative of the rights of the candidates under Articles 14 and 21 hitting “at the very basis of the principles of accountability, fair play and transparency”.
Prayer of the Petitioner
Besides seeking quashing of the exam and holding fresh exam, the petitioners have also prayed for stay of publication of final result cum merit list till the disposal of the petition.
Order of the Court
The Supreme Court today directed that a copy of the petition challenging the Common Law Admission Test 2018 (CLAT), be served on National University of Advanced Legal Studies (NUALS) and Central government.
The Court besides ordering that an advance copy is served on NUALS, Central government and the Core Committee of CLAT, also sought details of orders passed in this regard by six High Courts in similar cases.